Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif has been sending all kinds of overtures to India to improve the relations between the two neighbors. First it was the invitation to attend the oath taking ceremony of Mr. Nawaz Sharif. It was unceremoniously rejected by the Indian PM Manmohan Singh. Then came the visit of former foreign secretary Shahryar Khan to India as an special envoy of the Prime Minister. He carried a message to the Indian PM and an invitation to visit Pakistan at a convenient time. Again it was undiplomatically rejected by the Indians. To salvage the situation it was suggested by Pakistan that the two leaders meet on the side lines of UN general assembly session in September. Once again India said may be but made it conditional to preventing attacks on Indian soil from Pakistan without any substantial proofs to support this claim. Despite all these negative vibes for India, I would still support negotiations with India to discuss all the unfinished items including Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen as well as improve trade relations between the two countries. Pakistan should also inform India about her legitimate concerns of insurgents infiltrating from Afghanistan in to Baluchistan and the effects it could have on the regional stability of South Asia. India understands fully well that an unstable neighborhood is not in its long term interest.
It is about time for India to realize that their dream of becoming an international power can not be fulfilled until it improves its relations with its neighbors including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka have been complaining about Indian involvement in their internal affairs in the international forums. Indian aspirations to become permanent member of UN Security Council make it imperative for her to improve its relations with neighbors. International community will be too concerned for a veto yielding nation in UNSC that has active conflicts with its neighbors especially when one of it is a nuclear power as well. Recent disclosure of Indian intelligence involvement in terror incidents has further tarnished the image of her as a responsible nation.
India should learn from its past when it became the proxy state that protected Russian interest in South Asia. That policy backfired and India was forced to realign itself with the sole power in the world, United States of America. India should understand that USA wants to use it as a counter balance against China and a protector of her interests in Central Asia. But this role will come at more cost than benefit. To play this role India has to become an active contributor of armed forces to the American interests in Afghanistan and else where. That will make India become a legitimate target of non-state actors in the region. Pakistan has learnt its lesson of becoming partner in war on terror which should be a lesson for India to learn from. On the other hand America understands that India is not a homogenous nation but comprise of a diverse ethnic and cultural groups. South of India is alien to many Northern Indians. Kashmiri and separatists movements in the north are not giving up their struggles any time soon as well. These cleavages can be exploited by Americans if they feel India becomes a threat to their interest in the region.
India is energy starved country and relies on fuel oil supplies from Middle East. Kashmir and Palestine are two issues which has widespread support on the Muslim street. Flare up of human rights violation in Kashmir could produce backlash in Muslim countries that could lead to imposing sanctions on oil exports to India. This could have severe economic repercussions for its economy. India should also understand that Pakistan has a legitimate right on Kashmir based on the agreements at the time of participation and later on through UN resolutions that grant right of plebiscite to decide their fate. India should realize that Pakistan will wait for a 1000 years to resolve this issue but will never accept the Indian occupation of Kashmir. But at the same time the bilateral relations should not be dictate by the Kashmir conflict and both countries should improve relations in trade and cultural interaction. An arrangement similar to the one exercised by China and USA on the question of Taiwan.
Negotiations and peace is the only route available to India if it wants to protect its territorial integrity. Pakistan has realized the importance of peace for economic progress and will pursue improved bilateral relations with all her neighbors. This desire for peace should not be mistaken for weakness of resolve to protect its integrity and sovereignty. There is a red line to pursue diplomatic relations which will not be allowed to breach by any Pakistani citizen. That red line is peaceful resolution of Kashmir conflict based on international agreements; acceptance of Pakistan’s legitimate right to water as outlined in the Indus water treaty; acceptance of Pakistan’s contribution in the war on terror including its legitimate national interest in the political solution to Afghan crisis; and return of Siachen to pre-conflict status accompanied by withdrawal of forces.
India is ten times larger than Pakistan so the countries are mismatched in terms of their military strengths. But India is aware that a prolonged war with a neighbor is a significant risk to its own destabilization. It is more pragmatic for India to seek peace with all her neighbors. Pakistan is the largest neighbor which she can not ignore. Both countries are joined at the hip and they have to live with it.